With red eyes and raspy voices from the nights of wine and cigars provided compliments of a charity sponsor, we woke with significant effort and shuffled as a group into one of the luxurious dining rooms of the Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur. The bustle of diners and staff, the bright lighting, the smell of frying omelettes and sizzling satays made us even more mindful of the current state of our fragility. Jimmy Choo and the two designers (whose names currently escape me) who dress Charlotte in Sex and the City were by contrast apparently as fresh as we were wan when they beamed and heartily bade us “good morning!”
The 3 Chinese Tenors had been invited to Malaysia to stage a couple of fund-raiser concerts to help purchase new medical equipment for a local hospital. Jimmy Choo and the Sex and the City designers were also pitching in, donating time and money, auctioning off to the well-heeled audience a fashion devotee’s dream collection of clothes and shoes worn in the popular television series. The auction, the fashion parade, the concert, all went smoothly. The audience apparently enjoyed the 3CT brand of humour. One sponsor’s worries that champagne and cigars on stage might be frowned upon by certain members of the religiously diverse audience appeared to be unfounded, judging by the standing ovation and our three encores.
We were keen to do our best to help with such a worthy cause. What we didn’t expect, though, was the amount of socializing, drinking and eating required of us! For over a week, we were shuttled from invitation to invitation by a tiny fleet of Mercedes. We attended lunch at the governor’s house where we were fed dumplings and hearty bowls of soup with noodles and pig trotters. One of our party, a notably fussy eater, turned a peculiar shade of green when her spoon upturned a foot. Our host was looking on with a hospitable smile so she sipped some soup from her spoon and made an unconvincing “mmm” sound. We attended a Rotary lunch meeting where a guest speaker delivered a presentation on the issues of hiring amahs from other countries. I’m still not sure how we ended up in that one! Datuk Ibrahim Hussein, an artist of international renown, entertained us at his home with his charming wife. As a young artist, he had lived in New York where he worked with Andy Warhol. A series of the famous Campbell soup panels covered a wall but I thought Ibrahim seemed more tickled to show us photos from his youth. In one, he is on a stage in NYC, dancing with Sister Sledge as they perform “He’s the Greatest Dancer”. I read recently that Ibrahim died in 2009 of a heart attack. We were all very impressed when we met him. Hao remarked once, “Makes you feel like we are just pretend artists!” Ibrahim had a quiet charm and humble disposition. In that way, while their personalities were different, he did remind me of Dato’ Jimmy Choo.
The night before our breakfast, we attended Jimmy Choo’s birthday party. We had arrived somewhat late because we had been at a dinner party of one of the charity sponsors. The birthday party was held in a ballroom at the Shangri-La but it was darkly lit, like a disco. By the time we arrived, many guests had already left. Hao, our illustrious leader, apologised profusely for our tardiness. There was clearly some sort of cowboy theme going on because a couple of the Chinese ladies were wearing cowboy hats and boots and a group were trying their hand–or should that be foot?–at some country-western line dancing. Some of the ladies invited us to join in but we politely declined, choosing instead to sit quietly in a corner and nurse more drinks. Of course, Mr. Choo himself did not line dance! He had a slight figure, kindly smile. Most of his hair had thinned out. He spoke gently. He was as he had been on the other couple occasions on which we’d met, gracious and quiet-spoken, receiving us warmly, clasping each hand between both of his as he welcomed us.
That again was how he greeted us for breakfast. When he enclosed Fiona’s hand between his, he said, “Your face reminds me of my friend, Nicole.” Fiona looked a little puzzled and I apologised because we’d met so many people in the last week that we didn’t remember who Nicole was. He said, “No, I’m talking about Nicole Kidman.” Oh right, that Nicole! Hao, a seasoned party man, most closely matched the energy of our new friends. Hao chatted with them cheerfully. A couple of us made finding a strong coffee our first priority. While we chatted and ate, one of the sponsors called Hao to inform him that the charity had turned out successfully and we’d reached our target!
Great times performing great music for a great cause: who could ask for more!